It was a joy and honor to be participate in the 2017 Racial Reconciliation Conference, hosted at New Life Fellowship in Queens, NY. My spiritual connection to this church goes all the way back to the early 2000’s, when the founding pastor, Pete Scazzero, released the landmark book The Emotionally Healthy Church. Nancy Ortberg, my boss at Willow Creek at the time, required our entire staff to read it, and the book was truly life changing.
New Life has been doing fantastic ministry in Queens, NY, for close to 30 years, and they are one of the most balanced and integrated churches I’ve ever experienced. I love the ways they unite contemplative spirituality with social action, and emotional health with racial reconciliation. I am a firm believe in the necessity of these disparate parts being re-united and highly recommend you consider learning more about the work they are doing at Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I also would recommend following Pastor Rich Villodas on social media, as he is one of the most consistently deep voices in the online world.
New Life also hosts an annual Racial Reconciliation Conference, built on the assumption that reconciliation must sit on the foundation of deep spirituality and emotional health. It was an honor to be invited to speak, and I was asked to address the social construct of race from a white perspective. In this talk I acknowledge that while there are many layers to the social construct, I believe there is a central immorality that under girds the entire system. If you get a chance to listen, I’d love to hear your feedback:
Racial Reconciliation Conference 2017
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
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